Thousands of people demonstrated Monday in Jerusalem in front of the Israeli Parliament against a bill to reform the judicial system that could reduce the independence of the judiciary.
In a sea of blue and white Israeli flags, demonstrators stood for more than five hours in front of parliament holding signs like "Save Israeli democracy", "Morally bankrupt country" or "We have gone mad".
In the absence of police figures, the Israeli media estimated the crowd at several tens of thousands of people, which represents a strong mobilization on the scale of Israel. Many demonstrators came with their families, noted an AFP journalist.
The state-owned railway company has set up additional train service throughout the day between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem given the expected crowds on the line.
Several hundred people also demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the reform, noted an AFP photographer.
In Jerusalem, protesters shouted their displeasure as the Law Commission passed part of the provisions presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, paving the way for a first-reading vote.
During the debate, altercations took place between deputies from the centrist Yesh Atid party opposed to the reform and the chairman of the parliamentary committee Simcha Rothman of the far-right Religious Zionism party which defends the reform.
"Shame! Shame!" chanted the opposition MPs present. A video from the parliamentary channel showed three deputies, including two who had sat down on the ground, being grabbed by guards and led to the exit.
The organizers of the protest movement consider that the reform jeopardizes the democratic character of the State of Israel and also called for a national strike on Monday.
Mr. Netanyahu returned to power at the end of December by taking the head of one of the most right-wing governments in the history of Israel, resulting from an alliance between his party, the Likud (right), extreme parties right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups.
The justice reform project was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in early January. Since then, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against this text, mainly in Tel Aviv, but also in Jerusalem or Haifa (northern Israel).
The bill aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of magistrates and would significantly limit the ability of the Supreme Court to invalidate laws and government decisions.
A "derogation" clause would thus allow Parliament to overturn by a simple majority a decision of the Supreme Court, which Mr. Netanyahu and his allies consider politicized.
Mr. Netanyahu himself is on trial for corruption in several cases. If adopted, the reform could be used to quash a possible conviction, say its detractors.
On Sunday evening, Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed the nation in a televised speech and called for dialogue, saying the country was "on the brink of constitutional and social collapse".
“It is possible to reach a consensus,” he said, proposing to suspend the current legislative process in order to hold discussions between the different parties.
But Mr Levin said he had no intention of delaying the legislation.
While saying he was ready to hold talks with the opposition, he said the talks should not be used "to delay or prevent this fundamental reform of the justice system".
The fight against reform "will not stop", opposition leader Yair Lapid said on Twitter.
“An extremist and corrupt government is threatening to destroy the country at record speed,” he told a joint press conference with opposition party leaders on Monday after the law commission voted in favor. favor of the provisions of the reform.
"If this law passes, it's the end of the democratic era of this country", he continued, adding that it was "not too late to [it] stop" and urging the deputies of the Likud not to adopt the reform.
13/02/2023 16:20:38 - Jerusalem (AFP) - © 2023 AFP